WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Biden administration is considering denying entry to Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli minister who said a West Bank village should be “wiped out,” according to multiple reports from Israeli and U.S. media.
Smotrich, who is the finance minister and the minister responsible for civilian matters in the West Bank, has requested entry to address a meeting of Israel Bonds, the main Israel investment mechanism in the United States, next Sunday in Washington D.C.
Biden administration officials told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week that they would not meet with Smotrich after he said the state, not private individuals, should “wipe out” Huwara, a West Bank village where a gunman recently killed two Israeli brothers and where Jewish settlers rioted in response.
Now, The Times of Israel, Axios and Israel’s Channel 12 news have all reported that U.S. officials are considering denying Smotrich entry to the country entirely.
Smotrich later walked back his statement about Huwara, saying he did not mean it literally. But that has not appeased the Biden administration: Ned Price, the State Department spokesman said Smotrich’s statement was “disgusting” and “incitement to violence.”
Price declined to comment to JTA on Sunday about whether his department was considering denying Smotrich entry.
Smotrich does not appear to have any public meetings planned outside the Israel Bonds session. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee will not meet with him, and the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has said he agrees with Price that Smotrich’s comments were “disgusting.”
Liberal Jewish groups are planning to protest the meeting. A petition is circulating on WhatsApp asking Jews to call on Israel Bonds board members not to attend the speech, to call on Smotrich to cancel his appearance or to quit the board.
Israel Bonds works intimately with Israel’s finance ministry and has traditionally welcomed finance ministers to its events.
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